02/02/2011 3:33PM

Matto Mondo returns to races at Santa Anita

Benoit & Associates
Matto Mondo, Mike Smith up, wins the 2009 Thunder Road.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Matto Mondo, unraced since a third-place finish in the 2009 Santa Anita Handicap, returns to racing in a $68,000 allowance race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on Friday. The allowance race will be Matto Mondo’s first start since recovering from a tendon injury, and a race trainer Richard Mandella cautions that the 7-year-old gelding needs.

“I want to get a race into him and get him going again,” Mandella said. “He probably needs to get the cobwebs out. I don’t think it’s his best trip. He’s better going longer.

“He’s been off for awhile. Maybe he’ll want to run, maybe he won’t. Training, he’s going really well, and he’s sound again.”

Owned by Yatse Stables, Matto Mondo has won 6 of 12 starts in his native Chile and in California. He won the Grade 3 Thunder Road Handicap over a mile on turf in February 2009 before finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Einstein as the 9-2 favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Friday’s race, which has drawn a field of seven, will be Matto Mondo’s second start on the hillside. He was ninth in the Grade 3 Morvhich Handicap in September 2008, a loss that Mandella dismisses.

“He tore a shoe off,” Mandella said.

Matto Mondo will be tested in Friday’s race, which has drawn Dilemma and Regally Read, the first- and third-place finishers of the Grade 3 Daytona Handicap on the hillside turf course on Jan. 1. The field also includes Rendezvous, who won the 2009 Del Mar Derby, but has not started since June, and the stakes winners Ez Dreamer, Gallant Son, and Sayif.

Sayif is making his American debut. Trained by Patrick Biancone, he won the Group 2 Diadem Stakes at Ascot in 2009, but was unplaced in three starts last year for trainers Peter Chapple-Hyam and Michael Stoute.

Regally Ready is making his second start on the hillside turf course. In the Daytona, he was near the front on the hillside, led by a head with a furlong remaining, and was beaten 1 3/4 lengths.


Trainer Steve Asmussen thought Regally Ready “got a little lost” in his first race on the course, and hopes the horse can show improvement on Friday. “Hopefully, with the trip down the hill, he’ll have a better idea of what’s going on,” Asmussen said.